Pas­tor up­set church can’t ac­cess fed­eral funds

Waterloo Region Record - - Local - LUISA D’AMATO

Faith Church in Kitch­ener re­spects that women have a le­gal right to abor­tion.

But the church, part of the Evan­gel­i­cal Mis­sion­ary Church of Canada, also be­lieves that all hu­man life is sa­cred.

Mem­bers of the church don’t get in the way of women who come for abor­tion ser­vices at nearby Freeport Hos­pi­tal. But the church has a con­cern with abor­tion, and al­lows right-to-life demon­stra­tors to store their signs at the build­ing overnight.

None of this should be front­page news. Plenty of other re­li­gious groups feel the same way as Faith. But now, that be­lief sys­tem has pre­vented Faith Church from ac­cess­ing fed­eral govern­ment funds for a sum­mer job run­ning day camps for kids. A job that has noth­ing what­so­ever to do with abor­tion.

“It’s quite trou­bling,” says pas­tor Richard Kopanke. “Based

on our re­li­gious faith, we’re be­ing dis­crim­i­nated against.”

For nearly 20 years, he said, the church re­ceived a fed­eral grant that hired a stu­dent to help run sum­mer camps each year. The camps are on dif­fer­ent themes — sports, na­ture, mu­sic — and cost only $60 a week. Chil­dren of all faiths are wel­come. Some from low-in­come homes come for free.

This year, though, the Trudeau govern­ment has at­tached an “at­tes­ta­tion’ to the ap­pli­ca­tion form.

Or­ga­ni­za­tions that ap­ply for funds must check off a box that says both the job and the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s core man­date “re­spect” in­di­vid­ual hu­man rights in Canada. The form ex­plains that this in­cludes not only Char­ter rights like free­dom of re­li­gion and of ex­pres­sion, but also “women’s re­pro­duc­tive rights, and the rights of gen­der-di­verse and trans­gen­der Cana­di­ans.”

How the govern­ment de­fines “re­spect” is key here. It’s not enough to ac­cept that these rights ex­ist. You must also agree with the govern­ment’s val­ues. The or­ga­ni­za­tion must not “seek to re­move or ac­tively un­der­mine” these rights. In other words, no lob­by­ing for change.

Kopanke said he couldn’t, in good con­science, en­dorse the at­tes­ta­tion with­out com­ment. So he checked off the box and wrote be­side it: “We af­firm our right as a church to func­tion in ac­cor­dance with our re­li­gious be­liefs.”

The ap­pli­ca­tion was re­turned, un­ap­proved, last week.

Kopanke is deeply con­cerned that the church can’t ac­cess fed­eral funds with­out what he calls “com­pelled speech.”

The govern­ment says it wants to pre­vent tax­payer funds go­ing to an or­ga­ni­za­tion “whose man­dates or projects may not re­spect in­di­vid­ual hu­man rights, the val­ues un­der­ly­ing the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms and as­so­ci­ated case law.”

“This helps pre­vent youth (as young as 15 years of age) from be­ing ex­posed to em­ploy­ment within or­ga­ni­za­tions that may pro­mote po­si­tions that are con­trary to the val­ues en­shrined in the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms and as­so­ci­ated case law.”

This is un­be­liev­ably heavy­handed of the Trudeau govern­ment.

Not many peo­ple want their tax dol­lars to pay for a teenager to hand out anti-abor­tion lit­er­a­ture. But surely we can sep­a­rate the be­lief of the or­ga­ni­za­tion with the job that is be­ing done.

Plenty of re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tions have be­liefs and prac­tices that oth­ers don’t agree with. They also do an enor­mous amount of good in the com­mu­nity when no one else will. You want one, you have to go along with the other.

If re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tions were to stop shel­ter­ing the home­less, feed­ing the hun­gry and help­ing the poor to­mor­row, there would be a na­tional emer­gency.

Some­one should point that out to the thought po­lice in Ot­tawa.

DAVID BEBEE WATER­LOO RE­GION RECORD

Pas­tor Richard Kopanke is con­cerned that his church can’t ac­cess fed­eral funds for a day camp for kids with­out “com­pelled speech.”

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